Fast Friends through #APChat

It all started with a Tweet.

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And after #APChat last week, three unknown humans came together to collaboratively develop and share our thoughts to effect greater change in the world around us. The Japanese proverb is true: three heads are better than one. In this case, I am excited to partner with two of those heads: Dean Fusto (www.teachlearnlead.org and @DJFTLL) & Tiawana Giles (www.tiawanagiles.wordpress.com and @tiawanaG). 

In the near future, we will release the first post in a series of collaborative efforts by the K-12 blogging team. 

School Administrator – Digital Leadership Challenge

My recent blog post about the administrator’s classroom sparked a desire to challenge myself “to SAMR” my role as a school administrator. How can I model my growth as an administrator? In what ways can digital tools positively and effectively impact my role?

To answer these essential questions, I created the school administrator’s digital leadership challenge. I look forward to sharing out my learning and development throughout the process.

School Admin - DigiLeader Challenge

Engage Your Biases

I recently participated in an eye-opening Twitter chat: #CSISDChat. The discussion highlighted tough conversations that revolve around poverty. The guiding thought for the chat was: is poverty a result of poor education or is poor education a result of poverty. The questions presented in the chat caused me to critically engage how I support and foster a learner-centered, poverty-minded response to these at-risk learners – particularly in my administrative role. Working in a property-wealthy school district, it’s easy to focus my professional learning and development on how to support the other end of the spectrum. The biggest takeaway from the experience chatting with #CSISDChat, outside of my professional and personal development, were the biases that I do not engage.

We all have them – biases – allowing prior experiences to shape current perspectives. A few example in education:

  • The loud, extroverted teacher that does not consider the introverted, soft-spoken learner (I was that teacher!) 😦
  • Doing lessons (as educators) and staff developments (as administrators) like the “old days”
  • Maintaining an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality

Our biases in education prevent us from reaching every child. The guiding thought of poverty affects a very small percentage of the learners in my school district. However, how much more of an impact I could have when equipped with the right tools/thoughts for the small number of affected students – which in all honesty isn’t so small… A few years ago, I wrote a blog about Diversity in the Education Profession reflecting on my experience as a HS student – feeling like the learner who was affected by education’s biases. I felt like the “forgotten 2%”.

In order to engage and confront my biases in education, I must be more intentional in thoughts and issues that may have been a lower priority. I must engage my biases – all of them – to further strengthen my ability to serve all kiddos. I am eager to share these thoughts with my administrative team to partner with them for our administrative growth.

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Redefine the Administrator’s Classroom

It’s time we upgrade professional learning! In Education, we are frequently reminded of lackluster professional learning opportunities provided for teachers.

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Similar to inviting students to the learning design table, we must integrate the needs of the campus into these learning opportunities. Contrary to what’s expected in the educator’s classroom, administrators & campus leaders brainstorm, develop, and execute plans that do not integrate learner and educator voices in the process – who are the primary recipients of these opportunities. We must emulate what’s desired in an educator’s classroom by restructuring the administrator’s classroom.

Administrator’s Mindset Shift 

  1. Start small – think of opportunities to do with one department first. Let the momentum spread into the campus.
  2. Consider genuine needs -think beyond what the campus needs or district expectations. Think about what each educator needs for his or her classroom.
  3. Take a risk – acknowledge the uncharted waters and reinforce the power of risk-taking. Remember it’s okay to #failforward – but stakeholders need to see administrators taking risks.
  4. Listen well – learn from everyone! Get feedback from everyone! Publicly share and intentionally integrate the feedback into future ideas.
  5. Have fun – when did learning become a drag? Spice it up! Let loose! The power of fun is in your [administrator] hands!

Ideas to Start Redefinition

  1. Bring everyone together – Convene a diverse committee of educators, administrators, parents, and students. Ask what would they want to see for professional learning on campus.
  2. Value learning design models used in educator’s classroom – Start with the end in mind. With what big understanding do you want educators to walk away? Develop essential/driving questions to guide the purpose and learning.
  3. Incorporate choices – Do not think “one-side-fits-all” – it’s an easy model to execute, but definitely is not effective. Create a diverse pool of options driven by stakeholder voice and passion. Customize learning for as many educators as possible.
  4. Change staff meetings – Not another “sit and listen”…ever! Why waste precious time? Flip the meetings and ideate what more could be done with the attention and presence of every staff member on campus at the same time.

Twitter Learning – #TweetGrowth

Twitter is a great resource for professional learning. But similar to anything that I want to learn, if I do not have transfer goals to bring life and meaning to information, I will never truly learn it. My Twitter Growth Challenge: to reflect on this month’s top 5 favorites a/o retweets from Twitter! As always, I am excited about the opportunity to not only continue to curate information that is relevant to my learning, but also evoking purposeful reflection of the 140 character microblogs that I believe are the most meaningful.

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The tweet: At an administrator conference, Dave Burgess, author of Teach like a Pirate, emphasized the importance of building engaging components throughout a lesson to captivate their attention. And, at the PEAK of engagement, when students are most invested, is the ideal moment to deliver the content and information for the lesson. Casey’s tweet can be found here: click here

My application: I have shared this story with educators and tweaked how I deliver content/information with staff members.

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The tweet: Barry highlights his school’s mission statement: Learners inspiring learners to be inquisitive in life, principled in character, and bold in vision. Learners (students, educators, administrators) drive the inspiration of this mission statement. The tweet can be found here: click here

My application: I believe in the practicality and the purposeful nature of this statement. It’s not fluff – it leads to meaningful affirmation when recognized.

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The tweet: Craig highlights how to manage the fast pace of a high functioning Twitter chat with tools and strategies to gain the full benefit of a Twitter chat. The tweet can be found here: click here

My application: I am developing a Twitter-based professional learning community for our school. In an effort to explore other options to manage the fast pace of the Twitter world, I’ve started using Tweetdeck with chats.

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The tweet: During #txeduchat, Sanee made a great point about stepping outside of comfort zones – “being comfortable with being uncomfortable by leaning into discomfort.” The tweet can be found here: click here

My application: This is a great reminder to take risks, step out of my comfort zone, and partner with others to accomplish change.

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The tweet: During a #txeduchat, Tracy shared these words as food for thought. The tweet can be found here: click here

The application: This is my reminder that it’s not bad to shift gears or change the momentum in another direction – when the timing & context are appropriate.

“Retweets” and “Favorites”: Why?

Have you ever paused to think about why you retweet 140 characters on Twitter?

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Why do you choose a tweet to favorite? What does a retweet really mean? Does this reaction to the tweet benefit you or your professional learning network? Maybe both…but nevertheless, it’s important identify and understand why we make this digital response.

There are several reasons why others retweet and favorite those 140 character microblogs – from sharing information quickly and building a network of followers to saying thanks or endorsing an idea. For most, it’s a virtual affirmation that a piece of information is interesting, funny, or relevant to your world. Personally, I use these features to bookmark meaningful articles and information, and contribute to my digital filing cabinet. In the process utilizing my retweets and favorites as the virtual storage of amazing ideas, I realized that I have to be intentional about revisiting, learning from, and reflecting on each of the 140 characters. Currently, I have countless of favorites and retweets that have meant very little without reflection — which in the moment of clicking one of these digital responses, it was worthy enough to remember and revisit for a later day. How can I be more purposeful with my retweets and favorites?

After a bit of reflection and desire to change the status quo of my “retweets” and “favorites”, there are a few steps that will help me retweet and favorite tweets with purpose:

  • Strategically utilize the favorite/retweet feature with the intention of revisiting and reviewing tweets in the future.
  • Each month, I will reflect on and blog about my top 5 retweets and/or favorites in order to share my learning. This purposeful reflection deepens my understanding and promotes application of the most important tweets saved.

I am excited about the opportunity to not only continue to curate information that is relevant to my learning, but also evoking purposeful reflection of the 140 character microblogs that I believe are the most meaningful.

Eliminating disconnect

Eliminiating Disconnect

I had no idea the true role of a school administrator as it relates to advancing a progressive high school. There are many components that I never considered as a classroom teacher, as I was only concerned with what occurred in classroom C116. Even when I tried to look beyond the classroom as a future administrator, I could not imagine the disparity. From the outside looking in, I often wondered what kept administrators so busy, or why were we, as classroom educators, expected to do things that did not make sense. At that time, I understood there was a dramatic disconnect between school administrators and classroom educators, just as it is between learners and educators.

The disconnect = lack of effective communication and collaboration.

My blog post, Hypothetically Speaking, only began to scratch the surface from the perspective of the learner. In order for my students to have a passion-driven learning experience and engage in the learning process, I had to improve my communication and collaboration with them. Instead of telling them what I wanted them to do and to learn, I set learning objectives and learner outcomes, and the learners partnered with me to design the learning and the assessments. Once the students engaged in the design process, the disconnect was eliminated.

 The power of the “why” is what creates a shared pool of understanding. When others understand the process and rationale behind decisions, empathy and buy-in are generated. How can we, as campus administrators, help break the endless cycle of educators not understanding the decisions that are made by us? How can I eliminate the same disconnect that my students once felt that now is shared by my staff?

Eliminating the disconnect

  1. Identify the parameters of non-negotiables – it’s essential to communicate the things that are out of our control, not up for debate, or the top-down expectations
  2. Foster a culture of partnership – stakeholders need to know that their voice is valued and heard, and they want evidence of a genuine partnership
  3. Facilitate a communication forum – provide an opportunity for stakeholders to communicate and collaborate on elements that are within the parameters.
  4. Provide an outlet for continuous improvement – feedback is crucial and the implementation of the feedback contributes to fostering a culture of partnership.

Effective communication and collaboration are empowering and help eliminate any disconnect when decisions are made!

Educators: Digital Hygienists

Digital Hygiene

I usually go to the dentist office twice per year. I am always greeted by my favorite dental hygienist – Asha. She does a great job of connecting with others – always taking the time to update me on her last six months and asking questions about what I have been up to as well. While we catch up, she is examining my teeth, cleaning the hard-to-reach places, and making sure that I know my next steps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

We, as educators, must be like Asha –  but for our students’ digital health. Digital hygiene describes the cleanliness or uncleanliness of one’s digital habits – infused in one’s daily routine. We have flooded our schools with 1:1 technology initiatives across the country; we encourage our learners to utilize technology in their growth as a learner and a person; and we push for innovative ideas through the lens of technology. As a promoter of technology integration into the learning process, I am fan of this evolution. I caution however to ensure that we are also taking the position of digital hygienists in the process as well.

As digital hygienists, we must take the same road as Asha:

  • Establish trust and rapport – the relationship is always the core!
  • Examine students’ digital health – partner with learners to evaluate good and bad habits
  • Identify the’ digital blind spot – help learners see areas that can be detrimental to their digital health
  • Provide a framework & strategies to maintain healthy digital habits

Advice for Thought

When I began my most recent appointment as the freshman assistant principal at Coppell High School, I approached it with wisdom and advice from a colleague that has fueled my year.

Always…think like a teacher; serve like Christ; and act like “Anthony”

These words have resonated powerfully as a campus administrator. It’s easy to lose perspective about our role as administrators, but these tenets highlight the core of our response as campus leaders.

  • As administrators, we can never forget our roots. The most frequent compliant from classroom educators towards administrators is that we have forgotten what it means to be in the trenches of learning and motivating our young people within the classroom. This is false! However, we have to prove that it is false! It’s our duty to not just say it, but live it out in our daily interactions. It’s essential that we strategically remember to think like a teacher in order to provide the necessary support and the revitalizing empathy that our educators need.

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  • Our duty in life to serve and love others – my educators, learners, administrative team, community stakeholders, etc. Although it can be difficult and time consuming, I make a conscious effort to not overburden classroom educators with things that are within my control. I ask: What can I do to assist? How can I make a difference right now? In what ways can I step in to ease the pressure? Ultimately, my goal is to pursue Christ’s core – servanthood – in all that I do. The more opportunities that I can serve my school community, the more that I am fulfilling my purpose.

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  • Authenticity remains a core of my educational leadership philosophy. I must be faithful to my values and belief system. It’s essential that my school community sees “Anthony” in all situations – providing consistency and known expectations. Being ourselves is equally important as being leaders. And, what I love the most about act like “Anthony is it’s adaptability to anyone. It reverberates an old truth: just be yourself.

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This is the backbone of my vision and career in education. It provides the outlook, energy and accountability needed to impact change in my areas of influence.

#VirtualTeam

I miss the days when the same group of core teachers taught the same group of students. These students would rotate between the core teachers’ classrooms. Once a day, the teachers would meet to discuss curriculum and interdisciplinary lesson design, but more importantly, these educators would have healthy conversations about their group of learners. Since they all instructed the same students, it was easy to exchange ideas, successes, and opportunities to improve student success.

With large school populations, diverse course options, and limited human resources, many schools have restructured this best practice to meet current campus conditions. Although educators and learners cannot be as systematically connected as once before, with the use of technology however, we can create a similar collaborative atmosphere…virtually.

As part of the Freshman Transition Program at our high school, we have invited all freshman educators to participate in the #VirtualTeam concept. It is outlined here: Fish Net Protocol 14- 15. The protocol (or virtual team) is triggered by excessive behavior, excessive absences, or extremely low grades at progress report. One of the learner’s teachers initiates the process and communication continues via an e-mail thread. We started Virtual Teaming about five weeks ago. In order to introduce the protocol, I employed the human touch and visited every freshman professional learning community to answers questions and offer my support. I wanted to personally emphasis that any team of teachers with administrative support (the freshman assistant principal and the freshman counselors) can improve any student situation. Now, every freshman learner on our campus has an individual team of teachers and administrators for additional support when needed. 

Although it’s only been a short period of time since its introduction to our campus, we have seen strong indicators of future success, including a reduction discipline referrals (supported by a restorative mindset), a reduction in course failures, and increased concern for learners missing 3 or more days without campus knowledge. I continue to look forward to sharing concrete information over the next few months.

Fish Net Protocol 14- 15